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Running Back Opportunities – Connecting the Dots

Connecting the Dots will focus on one key position and statistical area each week. After an exciting opening weekend, we dive deeper into running back opportunity.

RB opportunity focuses on carries and targets, but also snaps played and utilization on those snaps. Over the last two seasons, the top-30 RBs in PPR formats averaged 13.6 rushing attempts and 3.74 targets per game.1 The top 15 averaged 16 rushing attempts and 4.26 targets per game.

On opening weekend, the four highest-usage RBs included three usual suspects and one surprise.

RB 2018 Wk1

The bad weather in Cleveland was a catalyst to provide James Conner more touches, but Le’Veon Bell has averaged 29 opportunities per game over his last 27 games. The workload is there for a Pittsburgh bell cow.

The opportunities for Todd Gurley (22.7) and Melvin Gordon‘s (23.4) are similar to what they have averaged per game over the last two seasons.

Player NameTeamOppSnapsSnaps %Util %
James ConnerPITCLE7791.748.1
Adrian PetersonWASARI4253.269
Melvin GordonLACKC6275.645.2
Todd GurleyLAROAK5993.742.4

Adrian Peterson is the only RB out of this group with lower utilization and that should continue with Chris Thompson will handling most of the passing downs for Washington.

Saquon Barkley Is An Instant Workhorse

RB 2018 Wk1 2

Joe Mixon was the only member of this group to post positive numbers as a receiver (0.1 fantasy points over expected per attempt), but Saquon Barkley (0.38 ruFPOEPA) and Dion Lewis (0.29) both excelled in the passing game. Carlos Hyde continued his 2017 inefficiency in all areas, a discouraging trend with the competition he faces.

Player NameTeamOppSnapsSnaps %Util %PPR
Joe MixonCININD4276.457.125.9
Dion LewisTENMIA49714922
Saquon BarkleyNYGJAX5577.543.620.8
Carlos HydeCLEPIT4752.851.113.5

Hyde will continue to share offensive snaps and receiving opportunities with Duke Johnson, while Nick Chubb waits in the wings. These usage numbers for Dion Lewis are an early warning sign for Derrick Henry owners. Henry continues to look overmatched as a professional any time he doesn’t face Kansas City in the playoffs.

Nobody Stops Alvin Kamara

dalvin group


Alvin Kamara continues to be ridiculously efficient. He averaged almost a point more than expected per carry.

It was promising to see Bears head coach Matt Nagy follow through on using Jordan Howard more in the passing game. Tarik Cohen only had nine opportunities in Week 1.

Player NameTeamOppSnapsSnaps %Util %PPR
Dalvin CookMINSF5780.340.413.5
Lamar MillerHOUNE577738.611.9
TJ YeldonJAXNYG3961.953.815.9
Rex BurkheadNEHOU3749.356.87.9
Alvin KamaraNOTB5281.238.543.1
Jordan HowardCHIGB5071.44015.7

Kamara, Howard, Lamar Miller, and Dalvin Cook all played a high percentage of the offensive snaps. It is uncertain how severe Leonard Fournette‘s hamstring injury is, but T.J. Yeldon‘s usage suggests he will be in line for a large workload if needed.

Phillip Lindsay Among Biggest Surprises

Mccaffrey group


The biggest surprise out of this group of RBs is the number of opportunities given to Phillip Lindsay. The Broncos appear to be operating as an RB by committee, but Lindsay immediately jumped Devontae Booker as the team’s No. 2 back.

Player NameTeamOppSnapsSnaps %Util %PPR
Ezekiel ElliottDALCAR5992.232.217.6
Christian McCaffreyCARDAL5785.133.313.5
Peyton BarberTBNO4872.739.66.9
Phillip LindsayDENSEA2635.169.218.2
David JohnsonARIWAS3667.95017.7
Kenyan DrakeMIATEN4674.239.19.6

It was very promising to see Christian McCaffrey dominate the offensive snaps and see 19 opportunities, but he only had three more carries than C.J. Anderson (7).

A Catch-Less Kareem Hunt

Ajayi group

Kareem Hunt was held without a catch for only the second time in his career.2 He was hurt by game flow and big offensive and special teams heroics from teammate Tyreek Hill. Hunt averaged 20.9 opportunities per game last season and should bounce back against the Steelers.

Player NameTeamOppSnapsSnaps %Util %PPR
Jordan WilkinsINDCIN4656.1379.1
Kareem HuntKCLAC4071.442.54.9
Jamaal WilliamsGBCHI3761.745.94.7
Jalen RichardOAKLAR375043.216.9
Jay AjayiPHIATL2940.351.720.2
Royce FreemanDENSEA2939.251.77.1

Jay Ajayi is in a committee with Darren Sproles and Corey Clement. He only played 38 percent of the offensive snaps in 10 games with the Eagles last season. Philadelphia has given a lot of lip service to more involvement from Ajayi – and we did see that in the second half – but his opportunities will fluctuate based on game flow.

Kenneth Dixon Exploits the Blowout

Breida group

Player NameTeamOppSnapsSnaps %Util %
James WhiteNEHOU364838.9
Nyheim HinesINDCIN3745.137.8
Bilal PowellNYJDET244058.3
Marshawn LynchOAKLAR2736.548.1
Kenneth DixonBALBUF2227.559.1
Matt BreidaSFMIN3045.543.3

James White is shaping up to be a nice value in PPR formats. He was targeted nine times in Week 1 and played a reasonable percentage of the offensive snaps. He’s averaged 5.3 targets per game over the last two seasons.

Chris Thompson Doesn’t Need a Lot of Touches to Dominate

Morris group

Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny earned similar opportunities against the Broncos, and the snaps were also fairly even. They will continue to cannibalize each other’s scoring in a low-value backfield.

Player NameTeamOppSnapsSnaps %Util %PPR
Chris ThompsonWASARI3341.836.424.8
Chris CarsonSEADEN2543.9488.9
Leonard FournetteJAXNYG2133.357.18.5
Rashaad PennySEADEN2543.9488.3
Darren SprolesPHIATL2940.341.47.2
Alfred MorrisSFMIN3451.535.31.8

Mostly Afterthoughts

the rest

Austin Ekeler set a new career high in total yards from scrimmage with 126 and finished with positive efficiency, including crazy reFPOEPA numbers (2.53). If Gordon were ever to miss an extended period of time, he could be a league winner.

Player NameTeamPositionWeekOppSnapsSnaps %Util %PPR
Tevin ColemanATLRB1PHI3651.430.611.5
Theo RiddickDETRB1NYJ4158.626.88.5
Devonta FreemanATLRB1PHI3955.728.28
Latavius MurrayMINRB1SF142078.54.2
Derrick HenryTENRB1MIA2029554.1
Duke JohnsonCLERB1PIT4146.126.83.5
Austin EkelerLACRB1KC2226.845.523.6
Isaiah CrowellNYJRB1DET244041.722.2
Javorius AllenBALRB1BUF3037.533.314.2
LeSean McCoyBUFRB1BAL3453.129.43.1

Do you agree or disagree? What was most useful for you? Please leave a comment below or better yet reach out to me via Twitter @EricNMoody

  1. They also averaged 15 games played. You have to be on the field to score.  (back)
  2. And the only time other than an abbreviated performance last year in Week 17.  (back)

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